Disney’s newest live-action remake releases this week, and this new version of “Aladdin” is nothing short of a nostalgic, magical carpet ride. While this musical fantasy from director Guy Ritchie features a slightly fresh take on the classic folk tale, a mostly new cast that includes Will Smith in the iconic Genie role, and minor changes to the beloved soundtrack, this remake parallels and pays respect to the animated original in more ways than one and should be well-received by both new and old fans.
Like the 1992 animated version, this new “Aladdin” takes inspiration from a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales, "One Thousand and One Nights" (or "Arabian Nights," as it is also called).
Again, the story follows a poor thief named Aladdin, living on the streets of the fictional city of Agrabah. He falls in love with Princess Jasmine after a chance encounter and goes on a journey to help the evil Grand Vizier Jafar acquire a magical lamp in exchange for his help. When Aladdin discovers an all-powerful Genie inside the lamp who will grant him three wishes, he must work together with his magical new friend to stop Jafar and rescue his true love.
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Excluding the recent “Dumbo” flop, Disney has been fairly successful in remaking a few of its classic animated stories like “Beauty and the Beast," “Cinderella" and "Pete's Dragon."
Despite the success, there seems to have been some skepticism of late when it came to the recent “Aladdin” remake, whether it was the casting choices (such as Will Smith as the Genie, who looks like a computer-generated man-creature in the trailer) or simply the negative reception of the look of the film based on the trailers as a whole. I also had my doubts about director Guy Ritchie, whose specific style was well-received in “Sherlock Holmes” yet fell short in his “King Arthur” remake. In the end, Ritchie appears to have knocked it out of the park with “Aladdin."
As someone who grew up loving the Disney animated films, it’s been a pleasure to see these live-action remakes come to life. The remake includes several memorable scenes from the animated original: Aladdin and Princess Jasmine meeting in the marketplace and running from the guards, Aladdin discovering the Genie in the lamp in the Cave of Wonders, the magic carpet ride, beloved songs like “One Jump Ahead," "Friend Like Me" and “A Whole New World." Even with the new additions to the story and soundtrack, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the new “Aladdin." I can safely say I had a giddy smile on my face during the entire thing.
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Several of the classic songs have been rewritten or slightly changed to reflect the time change from the original film to the remake, but overall it’s roughly the same soundtrack fans will remember, plus a couple new original songs that will likely be just as popular. The story has been changed a little as well, primarily to add more character depth, development and comedic relief. Princess Jasmine benefits here, with a role that says a lot about equality and women empowerment. And while there’s no outdoing Robin Williams’ adored Genie portrayal, Will Smith embraces the role by going in a more modern direction that feels more than adequate.
This new film offers something for everyone, young and older audiences alike. There will always be controversy over the changes made when a widely-known film is remade, but for someone whose childhood was positively impacted by Disney films like the original "Aladdin," there’s much to be impressed by and satisfied with in this new live-action version.
“Aladdin” is rated PG for some action/peril. Running time is 2 hours and 8 minutes.